Christmas Caramel

Caramel has been a holiday staple in my family for the past 14 years. Yes, that’s right. My mom has been making caramel every Christmas since 1998. (We lived next to an awesome Chef-Mom on an Air Base in Japan). The candy making started off a bit rocky. A too chewy batch here, a too hard batch there, and many batches that had to be thrown away. The recipe has since been mastered, and nothing but perfection gift wrapped for the past few years. My mom will tell you that the key to “just right” caramel is a good candy thermometer, full fat sweetened condensed milk, and patience.

Yes, this recipe is not one of the healthiest I’ve published on Steph’s Apron. However, part of living a healthy lifestyle is not to deprive oneself. Moderation is key. That means eating Christmas caramel–which only appears but once a year. Just not by the fistful.

butter the dish

A nifty trick for greasing a pan! Thanks, Mom.

 melting butter add brown sugar

First, melt the butter, then add the brown sugar and mix until blended.

add corn syrup add evaporated milk carmels6 bubbling caramel

Next, add the corn syrup and condensed milk. Mix thoroughly and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly the entire time. Be sure to watch the candy thermometer carefully; as soon as it reaches 245 degrees F, remove the pot from the heat and add vanilla. (P.S. We only used two thermometers to test out the new one we just bought).

pouring caramel into the dish

Let the caramel sit uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

 slicing caramels  wrapping caramels

Slice the caramel with a sturdy spatula and wrap in wax paper like a present.

 wrapping caramels wrapping caramels

Caramel will keep in a ziplock bag as they are waiting to be placed on cookie trays (hence the ziplock bag in the picture…)

Christmas Caramel
Yield: About 100 bite size pieces

1 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
15 ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not fat-free)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Situate a candy thermometer on the side of a large pot; make sure that the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pot.
2. Generously grease a 9×13 dish (nifty trick depicted above).
3. On medium low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the brown sugar until well blended, then stir in the corn syrup.
4. Gradually add the condensed milk and stir until the candy thermometer reads 245 degrees F. The caramel will be rapidly bubbling at this point. The caramel heats gradually, so the constant stirring will take about 20 minutes. Be patient–it is worth it!
5. As soon as the thermometer reaches 245 degrees F, remove pot from heat and stir in vanilla extract.
6. Pour caramel into the 9×13 pan. Be careful, the mixture is very, very hot. Let the pan sit at room temperature uncovered for at least four hours.
7. Slice and wrap pieces in wax paper.

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